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MLB Barometer: Big Erv in Big Trouble?

Eric Nehs

Eric Nehs writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.


Chris Carter 1B/OF, OAK - Carter was called up from Triple-A on Friday, and has started the last two games at first base for the A's against a left-handed pitchers going 3-for-8 with two home runs. The 25-year old had twelve home runs in Triple-A with a .279/.367/.482 slash line in 324 plate appearances with five stolen bases, and could snag the full time job first base job away from the struggling Brandon Moss with a strong performance. With a career .252 ISO in the minors and a 12.1 percent walk rate, Carter has shown the ability to be a patient power hitter who strikes out too often (23.3 percent). However, owners should keep an eye on his performance over the next week or so, and he is worth starting against LHP in daily draft leagues right now.

Scott Diamond P, MIN - Diamond improved his record to 7-3 after throwing eight strong innings against the Royals in game one of Saturday's doubleheader. He allowed only two runs on six hits in eight innings of work while striking out four and lowering his ERA to 2.63. I'll be the first to admit that Diamond will not continue to pitch to an ERA below 3.00, but considering he has available in over 60 percent of Yahoo leagues, he is definitely worth an add no matter what league. Diamond has been able to generate ground balls at a 58.8 percent rate in a strong pitcher's ballpark, and his 16.3 percent HR/FB rate should improve. His 3.54 xFIP is more indicative of the type of season he should finish with, but he should be on owners' radars.

Justin Ruggiano CF, MIA - Ruggiano has performed admirably in the absence of Emilio Bonifacio in center field after Chris Coghlan and Bryan Petersen were not able to get a handle on the full time job. Ruggiano now has an impressive .392/.467/.725 slash line with two stolen bases and two home runs in 62 plate appearances. The 30 year-old outfielder has shown the ability to hit for power in his brief stints with Rays, and has a career 13.6 percent HR/FB ratio. He had previously been hurt with a career 24.9 percent strikeout rate, but he has cut it down 14.5 percent with a career low 8.6 percent swinging strike rate and 24.8 percent chase rate. Owners can't expect his BABIP to stay at .432, but his 27.5 percent line drive rate and 0 percent infield fly ball rate indicate that he has hit the ball very well in his brief stint this season. It remains to be seen what will come of him when Bonifacio returns, but NL owners shouldn't hesitate to ride a hot hand right now.

Andrew Cashner P, SD - Cashner made his second start of the season for the Padres on Thursday night, his first since being sent down to Triple-A to stretch out his arm, and he threw 6.1 fantastic innings against the Astros. He allowed just two runs on two hits, and struck out nine. Despite being moved to the rotation, Cashner averaged 97.6 mph on his fastball, which is only a slight decrease from what he was averaging in the bullpen (98.8 mph). In addition, both his slider and change-up are considered plus pitches, giving him the ability to record swinging strikes at a 12.4 percent rate. His 52 percent ground ball rate and the fact that he pitches in one of the best pitcher's parks in baseball should attract the attention of all owners. He is available in over 80 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Jim Thome DH, BAL - Thome was acquired by the Orioles on Saturday, and as a result becomes a must add for owners looking for some much needed power off his or her bench. With Nolan Reimold, Nick Markakis and Nick Johnson each on the disabled list, Thome will move into the DH spot for the Orioles and Chris Davis will remain in right field, where he has been playing recently. While Thome's age will probably prevent him from playing everyday, he has proven this season he can still provide home runs in short spurts (five in 71 plate appearances this season). With his 56 percent fly ball rate this season, owners can expect plenty of home runs with Thome playing have of his games in Camden Yards.

Michael Fiers P, MIL - Fiers delivered a dominating outing on Saturday against the Diamondbacks, throwing six shutout innings while striking out 10 and allowing only 10 hits. The rookie starter does not feature the liveliest fastball (averaged 88.1 mph before Saturday), but he compliments it with a strong cutter, slow curveball and impressive change-up. He was able to lower his ERA to 2.20, and even though his xFIP of 3.25 indicates there is some regression ahead with an 80 percent strand rate, he is worth taking a longer look at. His 31.7 percent ground ball rate has me somewhat worried, but his strikeout rates have been strong throughout his minor league career and he has posted a solid chase rate (32 percent). He should provide more than eight strikeouts per nine innings for the rest of the season, and should remain in the rotation long enough to finish with an ERA just below 3.50.

Caution/Check Status

Cliff Lee P, PHI - Lee was roughed up in his outing on Friday night against the Marlins. His record fell to 0-5 after allowing six runs on 10 hits and two walks in just 4.2 innings pitched. While owners should be a little concerned about his recent performances, I believe Lee will be able to bounce back in the second half of the season. Lee should be pitching to a better ERA than 4.13, as both his FIP (3.02) and xFIP (3.06) would indicate. He has been hurt by a .330 BABIP despite having identical batted ball rates to last season, and a below average strand rate 70.2 percent. Even Lee's walk rate (1.91 BB/9) seems a little inflated considering his 70.2 percent first pitch strike percentage is the best of his career, and so is his 33.6 percent chase rate. Now might be the time buy low for the former Cy Young award winner.

Brian McCann C, ATL - McCann really struggled over the course of the June hitting just .202 during the month, and bringing his slash line down to .226/.295/.385. His .161 ISO is his lowest since his rookie season in 2005, and he has only nine home runs in 258 plate appearances. Despite producing his best strikeout rate in four years (13.2 percent), McCann's batting average has been the victim of a poor BABIP (.229). He is producing a slightly higher ground ball rate this year, but not enough to warrant for a giant shift in his BABIP, and the rest of his batted ball profile remains in line with his career rates. Owners can also expect an improvement in his walk rate considering his 26.5 percent chase rate is his best since 2008. Owners should be patient, as his track record speaks for itself, and there are no obvious warning signs that indicate he is on the decline as of yet.

David Phelps P, NYY - Phelps will be taking Adam Warren's spot in the rotation with a start on Wednesday against the Rays, and he will continue to stay there at least until CC Sabathia comes back from the disabled list after the All-Star break. The rookie has made a name for himself pitching well out of the Yankees bullpen and making one spot start, posting a 3.16 ERA. Despite his strong numbers, I do not think they will translate once making a start every five days. He has benefitted from an unsustainable 86.5 percent strand rate and a .279 BABIP against. Additionally, his 8.27 K/9 will not be maintained considering he has produced a below average swinging strike rate of 6.9 percent. He might be able to hold onto a rotation spot longer than Freddy Garcia can, but owners should be skeptical.


Josh Tomlin P, CLE - Tomlin earned his fourth win of the season on Saturday against the Orioles throwing six innings in which he allowed five runs on seven hits and three walks. Owners saw his ERA increase to 5.85, and while he has pitched better than that number would indicate (4.85 FIP and 4.44 xFIP), owners should not expect the same production that they saw in 2011. Tomlin was able to succeed last season because of a minuscule walk rate (1.14 BB/9), and while his walk rate of 2.49 BB/9 is still impressive, it has turned him back into a below average starter. His strikeout rate of 5.60 K/9 has improved, but it will not cut it considering his below average 42 percent ground ball rate.

Chris Young CF, ARI - Young went hitless in four plate appearances with two strikeouts in Saturday's loss to the Brewers. The 28 year-old outfielder has been struggling at the plate, and has seen his slash line drop to .214/.305/.416 in 174 plate appearances. Owners should be pleased that his power is still fine (seven home runs and .201 ISO), but he has only attempted four stolen bases this season and has been successful twice. A career low 16.8 percent line drive rate could explain his below average .243 BABIP, but look for that number to increase over the course of the season. His 12.3 percent HR/FB ratio is strong, but his status as a 20/20 player may have vanished as he is on pace for a career low in stolen bases.

Ervin Santana P, LAA - Santana delivered another subpar outing on Friday night against the Blue Jays. He did not earn a decision, but he was tagged for five runs on seven hits and three walks while only striking out two in five innings of work. His ERA jumped to 5.12 for the season, and his 5.35 FIP and 4.40 xFIP suggest owners will not see much improvement. His 6.44 K/9 is his worst strikeout rate since 2006, and his 7.7 percent swinging strike rate is his worst since 2007. To compound problems, Santana has seen his walk rate (3.44 BB/9) jump to its highest rate since 2007, as he has seen hitters chase few sliders out of the strike zone. A .249 BABIP indicates that there could be some more troubles ahead and that there could be more home runs allowed as his 32.7 percent fly ball rate should move closer to his career rate of 41.7 percent.

Justin Smoak 1B, SEA - Smoak went hitless in five plate appearances with a walk and a strikeout in Saturday night's extra innings affair against the Red Sox. Owners saw his slash line drop to .202/.267/.332 to go along with his 11 home runs and 32 RBI in 303 plate appearances. Despite his home runs, Smoak's power numbers have been lagging with a .130 ISO and his 11.7 percent HR/FB ratio is right there with his career rate. However, his below average line drive rate (14.6 percent) and high strikeout rate (20.8 percent) have kept him from producing a respectable batting average. His .221 BABIP should increase over time, but it is likely that a .225/.300/.360 slash line would be the ceiling, and he is not likely to hit more than 22 home runs.